Reviewed By Thom
Posted 03/17/00 08:15:44

"Venice beach babe as immortal muse. Charming."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

And no, I don't mean Pamela Anderson-Lee. Disco was dead, theoretically, in 1979 so this film about a roller-disco turned into a film about a New-wave themed roller rink. When I was 10 years old, I thought it was fucking brilliant. and now that I'm 30, I still think its pretty cool.

Xanadu is a MUSICAL complete with spinning twirling dance sequences and songs a-plenty. Some of which made it to the top of the billboard charts. This film was a big smash success that helped secure Olivia Newton-Johns position as a constellation in the Hollywood sky. She'd already made her mark with the GREASE (co-starring John Travolta). Olivia Newton-John took her cash back to Sydney and opened up a chain of boutiques called "Koala Blue". John Travolta was resurrected by an unknown magician through some arcane and deadly incantation called "Pulp Fiction" and his spiritless yet animated corpse has been staggering through miles of celluloid ever since looking for his brain.

ELO recorded the soundtrack. History Lesson. ELO stands for Electric Light Orchestra, and any band that used synthesizers in 1980 were almost like enlightened beings who were operating on a frequency far superior and incomprehensible to mere rock bands.
Electro-synth bands were shrouded in mysterious clouds of incense and billowing robes that hinted of eastern secrets and forbidden knowledge. That was the stage gimmick at any rate. Computers made anything seem so futuristic, there must be a UFO nearby.

To be fair, ELO and indeed the musical-movie XANADU did explore the realm of dreams without ever once including a rainbow or a unicorn. Okay, so Xanadu, even though it was about a straight guy and a greek goddess, is really about the liberation of the spirit and an inclusive (albeit mostly white, black if you just dance and don't talk) society which allows for people to wear hot pants and glitter and sing about being magic and dancing hand in hand and loving life. So yeah, its about Gay Hippies.

And at 10 years old, I needed to know there was a world where it was okay to be a gay hippy.

Because Gene Kelly is in this film, its got an authentic vaudevillian this-is-how-we-used-to-do-it feel. Olivia Newton-John was the tart du jour and Micheal Beck, who played Sonny Malone, the drifter with a dream and a pair of roller-skates had his one big shot with Xanadu. Word on the street is that he is living in Texas and getting parts now and again on television and crappy features.

Gene's character, Danny McGuire is more than just a convenient way to show that Kira the muse (Newton-John) is immortal. He also acts as an inspirational link to help Sonny weave the best of entertainment elements into the ultimate experience, aptly named XANADU! Danny and Kira show Sonny that he should not worry so much about context, or content, but to discover something deeper that grabs people and makes them feel alive. That spirit is universal, and transcends time. Capture that in a bottle and you will be a hero and a rich man. Which he does, and calls his bottle Xanadu.

Thus the Gods instruct man in the ways of success. Who knew Xanadu had an underlying spiritual theme? Its not roller skates that make people happy, or spandex hot pants (although they do make me happy) but some ineffible quality that transcends the elements to become a spirit, a gestalt of joy. Because it is something that you discover through inspiration, it is difficult to explain by writing but once it happens, there is no denying it. You can discover it through drama. Or song and dance routines on rollerskates. More recently, "Pleasantville" worked with a similar idea although they were more explicit about the sexuality part whereas in Xanadu sexuality was more implied.

So now that you see the man behind the orange curtain, does it make the experience any less magical? No, it makes it more awesome that you can know the mechanics of a thing and still be astounded that it affects you in spite of knowing how and why.

I still love this movie. I identified with it then and it has managed to maintain its effect on me in spite of all the changes I've gone through over the past 20 years. The costumes are a little dated, but the theme is timeless.

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